Living with FIV?
October 21, 2007 7:19 PM   Subscribe

Should I adopt a cat with FIV?

This cat's story is typical: a feral cat, he was caught during one of the winter spay raids by a local organization. He was incredibly friendly in the trap, and when they discovered that he had FIV they decided to try and adopt him out rather than put him back on the streets or euthanize him.

He's healthy, big, and energetic. I've read through a lot of past AskMe questions on cats with FIV and was encouraged to read that there are a lot of options and that cats with FIV can live close to their normal lifespan.

Here's the problem: I'm a grad student living relatively close to the bone. Will I be able to get this guy pet insurance, since he's already FIV +? Will it cost a lot more? Will I have to budget a great deal more for health care than normal, both in terms of secondary infections that he will be more susceptible to and the long-term drugs the Vet might suggest (in the past, that means immunizations, worm collars every once in a while, and a yearly or twice-yearly pet visit in addition to human-grade food) .

Any advice? He would be our only cat, but again, I live on a budget- thanks!
posted by arnicae to Pets & Animals (14 answers total)
Best answer: He's a pool of virus

No, he's a cat. And transmission occurs only through deep bite wounds according to the first google hit for "fiv transmission."
posted by Saucy Intruder at 7:31 PM on October 21, 2007

Response by poster: Well, in a literal fashion, I'd be taking that pool of virus off the streets- the foster he's in now says that unless they can adopt him out soon, they're going to return him to the streets, where he will be able to infect other people's pets and kill them.

My question is more about the pragmatic realities of owning/being owned by a FIV +cat
posted by arnicae at 7:32 PM on October 21, 2007

One of our three cats is FIV+ and has been that way since he was a kitten. We believe his mother had it and it was given to him invitro.

He's had a couple of very bad illnesses when he was a kitten and lately it seems that it takes longer for him to shake off a cold. But other than that and a constant snuffle which might be structural (we've never taken the time / expense to find out) it doesn't seem to affect him. He's energetic and fast, very playful and a total attention whore. He does seem to be very high-strung, but no more than some other cats I've known.

In short, IMO, I believe that you do NOT need insurance. I think that you can set aside some dough for AN emergency or two, but I don't that it impacts cats the way that it impacts humans.

(and NO our cat in the 11 years we've had him has not infected our other two pool of virus my eye!)
posted by Wink Ricketts at 7:48 PM on October 21, 2007

I owned three FIV cats. Two had the disease since birth and had pretty short lives due to poor immune systems.

The other was a former alley cat who lived to be twenty. He never had any problems until he developed kidney failure at that advanced age. If he is already an adult and he is big, he should be more like my older cat. Kittens seem to have a harder time with the disease.
posted by melissam at 8:41 PM on October 21, 2007

We have an FIV cat and he is a wonderful guy. Just need to be careful with whom he is associated with, as he does have a weaker immune system. He is 13 now and going strong.
posted by wile e at 8:47 PM on October 21, 2007

I've had 2 FIV+ cats; one succumbed to it and died around the age of 7. The other is still alive and healthy at the age of 6. Both were formerly feral, taken off the streets.

Neither cat required any specialized medical attention with the exception of the euthanasia required for the first cat.

Please adopt the cat and give him the best life possible, lest it should be cut short by the virus. Both of my FIV+ cats have been the best that I've ever met. But please, if you notice a decline in his health to the point that his quality of life is drastically and negatively affected, have him put down peacefully. There is no cure or treatment for FIV. Don't let any vet tell you otherwise and prolong the suffering of the cat that has started to decline. Insurance would be worthless.
posted by mezzanayne at 8:53 PM on October 21, 2007

Response by poster: What about the financial part? For those of you with FIV+ cats, are they more expensive to care for than non FIV cats?
posted by arnicae at 9:28 PM on October 21, 2007

if he's healthy, big, energetic and incredibly friendly, it sounds like you have the makings of a terrific kitty, never mind the fiv. he should have a few good years to spend with some lucky owner.
posted by bruce at 9:46 PM on October 21, 2007

Chiming in, I've had an FIV+ cat for ten years and he has no symptoms other than bad teeth (which may or may not be caused by the FIV). He is not on any medications and does not cost any more to take care of than my FIV- cats. You'd never know he has FIV.

Please adopt the cat in question. He could live to a ripe old age without any problems.
posted by Violet Hour at 9:53 PM on October 21, 2007

This cat will probably die if not adopted. Even if you can't afford first rate medical, you can give the gift of a few years of life to an otherwise hopeless cat. If you keep him indoors, he won't infect other cats and probably won't get any secondary infections (FIV by itself does not kill cats.)
posted by TeatimeGrommit at 10:07 PM on October 21, 2007

Googling FIVcat will give you links to a lot of opinions.
posted by Cranberry at 12:45 AM on October 22, 2007

we had a cat who had it. he never once got ill, not even a urinary tract infection, which is common in neutered males. he did grow nasty in his later years, so maybe there was some brain damage, or maybe he was a just a little punk.

eventually he disappeared (he liked to roam) but he was healthy last time we saw him.
posted by thinkingwoman at 4:24 AM on October 22, 2007

I had a cat who had FIV, and I adopted him as a poor grad student as well. We kept him inside and away from strange cats and throughout most of his life he never needed any more medical attention than yearly shots. My husband and I also have four other cats, and he never infected them. However, when I moved in with my husband I made him take his cats to the vet to ensure that they didn't have any germs they could pass on to my FIV+ guy.

As long as you keep him inside and aren't bringing sick cats into his environment, he'll be fine. Think about it...people with HIV can't avoid coming into contact with people germs, but you can do a lot to keep your FIV+ cat from coming into contact with cat germs.

He died recently because of a heart condition unrelated to the FIV. He was ten, but if he hadn't had the heart condition the vet said he could have lived a very long time. I don't at all regret taking in that cat. I think you won't regret it either.

Good luck!
posted by christinetheslp at 5:11 AM on October 22, 2007 [2 favorites]

I used to babysit for an FIV cat: fat, healthy and full of love. As far as I know he's still going strong. The owners were extra worried about him though (they had me babysit when they were just out of town for a night in case something happened - what I'm not sure). The only thing I remember that was different about the situation was that they couldn't have any other cats.

I say go for it.
posted by Jess the Mess at 8:06 PM on October 22, 2007

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